Motherhood is a tough job no matter what species you are, human or animal. One of the hardest parts of the job is pregnancy and nursing. Not only is the mother responsible for feeding her babies but she must feed herself enough to make milk for them. Nursing mother cats require up to 2-2.5 times as many calories per day as a healthy, non-nursing adult cat. They also need a higher amount of protein and fat each day during milk production.
To ensure nursing mother cats produce enough milk, they should eat high-quality, easily digestible kitten food, as kitten formulas are usually packed with more nutrients and calories than adult cat recipes. With multiple kitten foods available, how do you decide which is best for your cat? We’ve collected reviews of the 10 best cat foods for nursing mother cats, complete with nutrition information. Use these reviews as a buying guide but ultimately your cat’s taste buds will have the final say!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Other Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription)||
||Click to Save 40% Use code: Excitedcats2023|
|Best Value||Purina One Healthy Kitten||
|Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Can||
|Wellness Turkey Canned Kitten Food||
|Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Food||
The 11 Best Cat Food For Nursing Mother Cats
1. Smalls Other Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription) – Best Overall
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Turkey thigh, chicken liver, green beans|
If you’re looking for the best cat food for nursing mothers, look no further than Smalls Human Grade Fresh: Pulled Other Bird Recipe.
We liked this particular recipe over the rest in the range as it had the highest levels of calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for the milk supply of nursing cats and the bone development of kittens. The ratio of 1.1:1 is very close to the optimal 1.2:1 ratio of these nutrients.
The high metabolizable protein (49.5%) and fat (48%) content of the food fuel the high energy requirements of a lactating mother cat. The excellent ingredient quality makes for a food that is highly digestible, so your cat and her kittens can get all they need from a smaller amount of food.
The downsides to this food are that it is more expensive than some of the other options on the market. However, we think it’s worth the price tag.
It also is only available on a subscription basis, which is a pro or a con depending on the way you view it. Subscriptions are convenient but may be more of a commitment than most owners want. However, Smalls offers a trial period and is easy to customize and cancel at any time.
- High levels of calcium and phosphorus support milk production
- Made with high-quality, nutritious ingredients
- Highly digestible for high energy needs
- High protein and fat content
- More expensive than some other brands
2. Purina One Healthy Kitten – Best Value
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal|
Our choice for the best cat food for nursing mother cats for the money is Purina One Healthy Kitten Formula. This food offers only slightly less protein and fat than our best overall choice but at about half the cost. This food is usually widely available which is helpful when your mother cat finishes off a bag quicker than you thought and you need to make an emergency trip to the closest store! Purina One Healthy Kitten has lower calories per cup than our top choice so your mother cat may need to eat more of this food. However, the lower cost and availability in a large bag may help offset this higher amount consumed. This food contains chicken by-products as a protein source, which some owners prefer not to feed, even though they are safe and still nutritious.
- Reasonable cost
- Widely available and convenient to buy
- Most cats like the taste
- Uses some lower quality ingredients
- Lower calorie/cup
3. Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Wet Food
|Calories:||133 kcal/5.1-oz can|
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Water sufficient for processing, chicken, chicken liver|
Our third choice cat food for nursing mothers is the Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Wet Food. This diet is designed with both nursing mothers and weaning kittens in mind. The soft texture of this food is ideal for tiny kitten mouths to handle as they transition from nursing to eating. Canned food such as this contain a large amount of water which can help your mother cat stay hydrated as she nurses. Because of the high water volume, comparing nutritional content between dry and wet food takes a little more effort but can be done. Some cats prefer eating wet food to dry food and if yours is one of them, Royal Canin Mother and Babycat is an option to consider. Canned food is not as cost-effective to feed as dry food, which is another point to consider as you try to keep your ravenous mother cat fed.
- Easy to feed to mother cat and kittens too
- Helps ensure mother cat gets enough water
- Ideal texture for tiny kittens
- Messier than dry food, especially for kittens
4. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey Canned Kitten Food
|Calories:||108 kcal/5.5-oz can|
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Turkey, chicken liver, turkey broth|
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Canned Kitten Food is a high protein, yet expensive choice for nursing mother cats. This option appeals to those who prioritize food with all-natural ingredients for their cats. Wellness CORE is also free of a food additive called carrageenan, which is controversial among some pet owners and even experts. The science regarding the actual danger of this product is unclear and it remains an approved ingredient in pet food. If you prefer to avoid carrageenan out of caution, Wellness CORE is one of the canned foods you can safely choose from. Reportedly, some cats don’t like the taste of this product so it may be worth buying a can or two to see how your cat feels before purchasing a full case due to the cost.
- All-natural ingredients
- High protein from real meat sources
- Free from Carrageenan food additive
- Some cats don’t like the taste
5. Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Food
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Chicken, brown rice, wheat gluten|
Hill’s Science Diet is likely a familiar brand to most cat owners, as it is often recommended by veterinarians. The Hills Science Kitten Dry Food has a lower protein content than some other options on this list but is very nutrient-dense with a lot of calories per cup. This diet is free of artificial ingredients and flavors and highly digestible to ensure your nursing mother cat gets as much nutrition as possible. Hill’s Science Diet food is usually only available from pet stores, veterinarians, or online retailers, making it not as convenient to purchase as some other diets. The shape of the kibble isn’t particularly exciting but that doesn’t seem to matter to most cats who eat this food.
- High-calorie count per cup
- Made in the USA
- No preservatives or artificial colors or flavors
- Not as convenient to buy
- Lower protein than some other kitten foods
6. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken and Rice
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Chicken, rice, corn gluten meal|
Another great food for nursing mother cats is Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken and Rice. This food packs a high volume of calories into each cup, ideal for a nursing mother cat trying to cram as much nutrition as possible into each meal. Pro Plan Kitten also has a higher protein content than many other kitten foods. This food contains probiotics that may improve digestion, helping the mother cat absorb as much nutrition as possible from her food. Most cats seem to love the taste of this food as well, a point in its favor especially if your cat is normally a picky eater.
- High-calorie content per cup
- Most cats love the taste
- Contains probiotics to id digestion
- Not as affordable as some other options
7. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Rice Dry Kitten Food
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken meal, pea protein|
Nutro is a lesser-known brand but this kitten food is a reasonably priced diet option made with similar quality ingredients as some of the more expensive brands. The Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Brown Rice Dry Kitten Food is made with only non-GMO ingredients, which will appeal to owners who avoid GMOs in their food as well. Also, like the more expensive brands, Nutro kitten food has real meat as the first ingredient. This dry food has a lower calorie count per cup so your cat may need to eat larger quantities. Some cats don’t care for the texture of the kibble, as they are smaller and harder than some other brands.
- High-quality ingredients at a lower price
- Made with non-GMO ingredients
- Has real meat as first ingredient
- Unusual kibble shape not all cats enjoy
8. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Flaked Whitefish & Tuna Canned Food
|Calories:||111 kcal/3 oz can|
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Water sufficient for processing, ocean whitefish, fish|
The Purina Pro Plan Focus Kitten Flaked Ocean Whitefish and Tuna Canned Food comes in a small can and isn’t the most cost-effective option but the unusual, flaked texture of the food often appeals to picky cats. Those small cans still pack a nutrient punch, with similar calories to the larger canned diets we already discussed. Thanks to the fish ingredients, this food is high in protein as well. Not every cat likes the taste of fish-based diets. Reportedly, some cats also get digestive upset and sometimes diarrhea from eating fish foods like this one. Given the cost of the smaller cans, this food may work best as a supplement to one of the lower-calorie, less expensive dry food options.
- Unique and appealing texture
- Lots of nutrition even in a small portion
- High in protein
- Not every cat likes or tolerates fish-based food
- Not very cost-effective due to small can size
9. Halo Holistic Chicken and Liver Grain-free Dry Kitten Food
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken liver, dried egg product|
Halo Holistic Chicken and Chicken Liver Grain-free Dry Kitten Food is a good choice for owners willing to pay a little more to know they’re feeding their cat food made from cage-free chickens and sustainable ingredients. Many owners also like the idea of feeding grain-free food to their cats, though there is not currently research to support the idea that this type of food is healthier for cats. Halo Holistic kitten food is reportedly highly digestible which is good since it also has a lower calorie per cup count than the other dry foods we reviewed. The major downside of this food is the price as it is the most expensive dry kitten food on our list.
- Very high-quality ingredients
- Highly digestible
- Lower calorie per cup
- Lower calories per cup
10. Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Food
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain corn|
There’s nothing fancy about Iams ProActive Health Kitten Food, just a solid, nutritionally balanced diet from a company that’s been making pet food for a long time. Iams is reasonably priced and widely available from a range of traditional and online retailers. While chicken is the first ingredient, Iams kitten food does contain chicken by-products and grains like corn that some owners prefer to avoid. Long-time feeders of this diet report that their cats dislike some of the newer formulas of Iams kitten food. This food is available in large bags making it a cost-effective option for meeting the increased food consumption needs of nursing mother cats.
- Widely available
- Chicken is the first ingredient
- Some cats dislike new kibble shape
11. Fancy Feast Tender Turkey Feast Canned Cat Food
|Calories:||95 kcal/3 oz can|
|Top 3 Ingredients:||Turkey, liver, meat by-products|
Rounding out our list of the best foods for nursing cat mothers is Fancy Feast Tender Turkey Feast Kitten Food. This food is an affordable canned food option that cats seem to enjoy the taste of. The small cans contain fewer calories than other canned foods of similar size. Fancy Feast is generally easy to find for sale at a wide variety of locations. It makes a good choice for those looking for canned food to mix into a dry diet for added calories, taste, or hydration. One thing to keep in mind when considering this diet is that it does contain milk which some cats don’t tolerate.
- Affordable and widely available
- Most cats enjoy the taste
- Fewer calories than similar kitten food
- Lower calorie content per can
- Milk ingredients may not be tolerated by all cats
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Cat Food For Nursing Mother Cats
As you make your decision about what cat food to buy your nursing mother cat, here are a few factors you should consider:
- Ingredients in the food
- Bag size available
- Your cat’s food allergies/sensitivities
- How easy the food is to buy
To help you accurately compare the benefits of various foods, it’s a good idea to learn how to read a pet food label and what ingredients are found in pet diets. Americans spent over $100 billion on their pets last year which means the competition for your cat food dollars is fierce.
Flashy advertising and buzzwords like “grain-free” are meant to appeal to you, the person with the bank account. As we mentioned previously, the science behind some of these food trends isn’t yet proven when it comes to the actual health impacts on your cat.
Of course, if your preference is to feed a certain type of food versus another that’s perfectly fine. Just be aware that following the latest cat food trends doesn’t automatically equal better nutrition.
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If your mother cat is eating 2-3 times the amount of food she usually would, you’re going to be buying a lot of food.
Buying larger bags of cat food is usually more cost-effective but not every diet we reviewed comes in a large bag. Canned food also probably won’t stretch your dollars as far as dry diets will.
If cost is a factor for you, consider which diets will get you the most for your money as you make your buying decision.
Some cats genuinely do have health concerns surrounding some of the ingredients commonly used in cat food. Food allergies and food sensitivities should be considered as you make your cat food decision. Some cats get upset stomachs from eating fish-based foods or dairy products.
If you suspect or already know your nursing mother cat has food allergies, consult with your veterinarian to help you decide on the right diet.
Ease of Purchase
If you lead a hectic, over-scheduled life, you may not have time to make a separate trip to your veterinarian or the pet store to buy cat food. Online pet food delivery is an option but if shipments are delayed or damaged you may find yourself needing to pick up an emergency bag of cat food.
Some of the brands we reviewed are easily purchased at grocery stores or big-box chain stores while others are not. How widely available your chosen brand of food is and whether that matters to you is another point to consider as you choose your nursing mother cat’s diet.
Want to see more cat food reviews? Check out our review page here!
As the best overall cat food for nursing mother cats, Smalls Human Grade Fresh: Pulled Other Bird Recipe combines high protein and calories with a tasty, digestible kibble. Our best value choice, Purina One Healthy Kitten, has similar nutritional value but at about half the cost.
We hope that providing these reviews of the top 10 cat foods for nursing mother cats, as well as some guidance to keep in mind when buying, will help you pick the food that works best for you, your cat, and her kittens as well!
Featured Image Credit: Rashid Valitov, Shutterstock
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
- The 11 Best Cat Food For Nursing Mother Cats
- 1. Smalls Other Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription) – Best Overall
- 2. Purina One Healthy Kitten – Best Value
- 3. Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Wet Food
- 4. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey Canned Kitten Food
- 5. Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Food
- 6. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken and Rice
- 7. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Rice Dry Kitten Food
- 8. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Flaked Whitefish & Tuna Canned Food
- 9. Halo Holistic Chicken and Liver Grain-free Dry Kitten Food
- 10. Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Food
- 11. Fancy Feast Tender Turkey Feast Canned Cat Food
- Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Cat Food For Nursing Mother Cats
- Final Thoughts